Trends and styles constantly evolve in fashion, which is why change isn’t a foreign concept when we talk about the industry. However, fashion has been slow to change when it comes to embracing disabled bodies, plus size women, and people of color. The industry has long-prioritized highlighting bodies of a certain figure and color—neither of which represent the average consumer. But change in this regard has been brewing for quite some time—since 1973, according to The Business of Fashion. And in recent years, the industry has evolved beyond portraying a fantasy to show the real thing.
While this change has been impending for decades, the rise of the body positivity and fat acceptance movements can also be credited with the transformation that the fashion industry has undergone. While the fat acceptance movement began in the 1960s, the body positivity movement has recently become more mainstream and has inspired people of all shapes and sizes to speak out against unrealistic beauty standards. Plus size influencers are paving the way when it comes to pushing an inclusive agenda for new and legacy fashion brands and houses.
The plus size clothing industry is worth more than $20 billion, which is why it’s not surprising that many brands—new and old—are rushing to cater to the space. And those brands that refuse to create curvy clothing are missing out on big profits and even seeing a decrease in revenue.
While there seems to be new launches of inclusive trendy plus size clothing every week, there are some brands that get it right and some that completely miss the mark. Before you spend your coin on the next “inclusive” line, consider these factors to determine if brands are authentic in their desire to become more diverse and inclusive. After all, as a consumer, you do hold a lot of power when it comes to determining the success or failure of a brand.
What Does “Inclusive” Mean?
By definition, the term “inclusive” means: containing (a specified element) as part of a whole. In fashion, this term is used to communicate that “everyone can wear this and everyone can participate.” This term denotes that something is including and accepting of marginalized groups of people who are discriminated against and left out because of who they are and what they look like–for example, plus size individuals.
Inclusivity Goes Beyond Size
When you hear the word “inclusivity,” it has recently been associated with including larger bodies in fashion, advertisements and runway shows. However, inclusivity is supposed to translate to “everyone,” not just one group of marginalized individuals. That means people of color, disabled bodies and other groups should also grace the covers of magazines, model the latest inclusive clothing line and have a voice in fashion. Recently, Tommy Hilfiger unveiled its Tommy Adaptive line, which boasts on-trend, functional and stylish clothing for disabled bodies. Other high fashion brands have also highlighted marginalized bodies during New York Fashion Week year after year, which has caught the attention of consumers and brands worldwide. This ultimately has sparked change throughout the industry. Online retailers have also begun to diversify the types of models they use to showcase clothing. While the typical fashion model seen is usually tall, young, thin and conventionally beautiful, some inclusive fashion brands have gone against the grain as they opt out of photoshopping stretch marks or having older models who don’t fit conventional beauty standards model their clothes.
A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats
While the saying “a rising tide lifts all boats” is usually used in references regarding money, it also paints an optimistic picture of how the amplification, recognition and acceptance of one group of marginalized people could improve conditions for all marginalized people. As fashion becomes more inclusive, it’s now the responsibility of the consumer to support inclusivity and put their dollars toward clothing brands that are truly elevating and accommodating bodies of all shapes, sizes, colors and capabilities.
Consider This When Shopping Inclusive Lines
Consumers can be so influential when it comes to the success and failure of brands, thanks to the popularity of social media, which has given the consumer more buying power and choices. Not only do consumers vote with their wallets, but they also stand to influence others around them with their purchase choices. Here are some factors to consider as you navigate inclusive clothing lines so that you can vote confidently with your dollar:
Who Is Modeling the Clothing? Does a brand’s inclusive line reflect you? Do you see yourself represented in advertisements and other marketing initiatives? If not, create your own campaign by sporting the clothing and posting to social media. While the brand may have missed the mark, you can help make it right. You never know whom you may inspire!
Does This Inclusive Line Feel Right? A brand can extend their sizing, but it may not be enough. Pay close attention to the quality and fit of the material. A lot of times, brands may extend their sizing to meet demand, while not doing enough research to get the sizing and fit right.
Can Your Friends Wear the Line? Just because something fits you, doesn’t mean it will fit everyone. With as much spending power as consumers have today, your abstinence from a brand that doesn’t speak to you or isn’t truly inclusive means you’re standing up for other marginalized people who may not have the same privileges as you.
Always Voice Your Feedback–Now, more than ever, brands have become very responsive to consumers through their use of social media. If you have feedback for a brand, take every opportunity to let them know. After all, you are the driver behind everything they do. Some consumer review websites also allow people to send their feedback directly to a brand’s personal email. This could be a great way to stand up for marginalized bodies and push the agenda of inclusivity even further.
Inclusivity is important. Inclusive fashion is a big step in a positive direction. Vote with your dollars and support brands that are going the extra mile to accommodate everyone.